The New York Times published a great article today about nursing home arbitration clauses and erosion of the right to a trial by jury. A pending wrongful death lawsuit will test a new legal strategy to prevent nursing homes from requiring their residents to take disputes to arbitration. Below is an excerpt of the article and click here for the full New York Times article.

“In September 2009, a month after her 100th birthday, Elizabeth Barrow was found dead at a nursing home, Brandon Woods in South Dartmouth, Mass. She was strangled and suffocated with a plastic shopping bag over her head. The killer, the police said, was her 97-year-old roommate. Workers at the nursing home had months earlier described the roommate in patient files as “at risk to harm herself or others.” The authorities did not focus on the nursing home, though. After police inquiry, the roommate – despite her age and dementia – was charged with murder. When the roommate was deemed unfit to stand trial and committed to state hospital, the sensational case essentially disappeared.”

“More than six years after the killing, Mrs. Barrow’s only son, Scott, is still trying to hold the nursing home accountable. Mr. Barrow was barred from taking Brandon Woods to court in 2010 because his mother’s contract with the nursing home contained a clause that forced any dispute, even one over wrongful death, into private arbitration.”

“Arbitration clauses have proliferated over the last 10 years as companies have added them to tens of millions of contracts for things as diverse as cellphone service, credit cards and student loans. Nursing homes in particular have embraced the clauses, which are often buried in complex contracts that are difficult to navigate, especially for elderly people with dwindling mental acuity or their relatives, who can be emotionally vulnerable when admitting a parent to a home.”

The secret nature of arbitration can hide patterns of wrongdoing at nursing homes. When the nursing-home staff or managers do not uphold a standard of decency, and their negligence or wrongful actions cause residents to suffer death, injury, or illness, the nursing home must be held responsible for the harm it causes. Taylor Martino is a law firm that serves nursing home abuse/neglect victims in Alabama and Mississippi. If you believe that you, or a loved one, have been injured by a negligent nursing home, please contact us today for a free and confidential consultation and case evaluation.

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